As my wife and I rode in an Uber to the airport from the Marriott Hotel in Downtown Philadelphia, she asked me a question. “What would have to happen for you to consider this trip a success?”
Her question prompted me to tally an approximation of the costs.
- Tickets to attend the conference: $1,600
- Airfare from Orange County to Philadelphia: $1,500
- Hotel costs for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: $900
- Meals on Thursday: $100
- Meals on Friday: $300
- Meals on Saturday: $300
- Meals on Sunday: $100
- Parking in Orange County: $200
Approximate cost of trip to attend the conference in Philadelphia: $5,000
How could I measure whether my company and advocacy efforts would derive $5,000 worth of value?
My wife supports my work, but we both know many options exist to spend $5,000 over four days. For example, a luxury resort in San Diego or Santa Barbara would have given us a new memory to celebrate ten years of liberty since completing my obligation with the Bureau of Prisons.
Instead, I chose to bring Carole on a trip to Philadelphia, where we saw people sleeping on the downtown sidewalk, and we spent the entire weekend attempting to strike up conversations with people who run prison systems—and many people who oppose the efforts I make for reforms that incentivize a pursuit of excellence.
Investments and Advocacy:
For an opportunity to change the way people think, we must invest time and resources. We need to build our tools, tactics, and resources for the opportunity to change laws and policies. I may have finished my journey with the Bureau of Prisons, but I still work with the system seven days a week—even while I’m on a cross-country flight back to California.
Since I define success as changing laws and policies, I must take micro steps, not knowing which action will lead to change. I’ve been taking those steps since I started serving my prison term.
For example, the books I read in prison led to university degrees. I leveraged those university degrees to open publishing agreements. The books I authored allowed me to work more closely with universities. Relationships with universities opened opportunities to interact with media, business leaders, leaders of prison systems, federal judges, and US Attorneys. Those micro-steps influenced reforms that allowed people to earn time credits—a micro-step toward a merit-based system.
Every small step that leads us closer to opening opportunities for people to earn freedom is part of how I define success: Making an impact that will influence the lives of 1 million people. I will continue taking those steps.
The $5,000 investment led me into conversations, some for a few minutes, some for a few hours. I got to build a case on the merit of work release programs and more incentives for people who pursue excellence. Some of the leaders who interacted with me included:
- BOP Director Colette Peters
- BOP Deputy Director William Lothrop
- BOP Director of Reentry: Kevin Pistro
- BOP Director of Public Affairs: Kristie Breshears
- North Central Regional Director Andy Matevousian
- Western Regional Director Melissa Rios-Marques
- Director of National Institute of Corrections: Alix McLearen
- BOP Director of Programs: Louis Milusnic
- ADX Warden Andy Ciolli
- Butner Warden Kirstin Tomlin
- Director of Nebraska Corrections: Rob Jeffries
- Director of South Carolina DOC: Bryan Stirling
- CEO of Edovo: Brian Hill
- President of the Moss Group: Bernie Warner
- Mosaic Solutions for Advocacy: Matt Cate
- Retired BOP Director: Hugh Hurwitz
- Retired Director of Nebraska Corrections: Scott Frakes
- Michael Bell, MTC
- Scott Marquardt, MTC
- Dan Marquardt, MTC
I don’t know whether any of those conversations will result in work release programs, furloughs, or advance discussions about the reinstatement of US Parole. But I will continue working and investing to open new opportunities. These investments are necessary to advocate for the people still in prison.
My next stop on the advocacy tour will be a trip to Northern California at the end of the month for a presentation at UC Berkley. In September, trips to Atlanta and Miami will further the efforts.
It’s my way of being the change that I want to see.
What changes do you want to see?